Here is a recap of our week:
We stayed overnight in Stuart, Iowa after my cousin's wedding. We got up early, had a quick breakfast, and made the 10 hour drive from there. Just a couple of bathroom/gas stops, and a quick picnic lunch at a rest area. The girls did so great in the car! With the time change, we got to the cabin shortly after 4 mountain time. That was right when most everyone else got there to, and check in time was at 4. We were amazed at how beautiful the house was--so perfect for our group! Sarah and Miriam made a spaghetti supper that night.
On Monday, we got picnic food organized and drove to Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was pretty busy, so Dave and the girls and I decided to take a shuttle from the park and ride lot. We met up with everyone at the Bear Lake trail head, and had a picnic lunch before hiking. The hike around the lake was pretty fast and easy, but very scenic! There was a little bit of snow on the trail toward the end of our hike. Norah was okay in the backpack for awhile, but insisted on walking the last stretch. After doing the Bear Lake loop, we decided to hike to Alberta Falls. Mara, Bryan, and Connor came along with us. This was a pretty easy hike (downhill at first, then up a little to the falls), with beautiful views. We hiked back and split where the sign for the Glacier Basin trail head was. Mara, Bryan, and Connor went back to Bear Lake where their car was, and we took the shuttle back to our lot.
After our hike, we stopped for groceries for our meal. I had pre-made pizza crusts before the trip, so we had homemade individual pizzas for supper that night. After supper, a bunch of us went over to the Stanley Museum for the ghost tour. It's where Steven King stayed and was inspired to write The Shining. The movie "Dumb and Dumber" also had some scenes filmed there. It was interesting to learn the history of the place, but I was not a big fan of trying to summon ghosts!
Tuesday was my cousin Ben's 30th birthday. We were getting ready to go play laser tag, but Mara called and found out that it was full that morning. We switched our plans and headed to the Alpine Tram instead. This was a great activity that was pretty inexpensive ($12 a person). Norah stayed behind with my mom. The tram was fun to ride up the side of the mountain, and the views were gorgeous. They have a gift shop and a little cafe at the top. We bought a bag of peanuts for 50 cents, and you can feed the chipmunks outside. Abby had fun trying to get them to eat out of her hand. Later, when Dave and I were hiking with Greg, Sarah captured some pictures of her being successful at that! They had a hike to the summit, so Greg, Dave, and I did that. We got to the top and didn't really have a great view, but we connected with Mara who showed us the trail they had found. Amazing views!
We took the tram back down and headed to a Mexican restaurant for a birthday lunch for Ben and Greg, whose birthday was June 29th. Great food, and we even got birthday sopapillas for dessert. After lunch, Dave, Abby, and I checked out a few shops in town before heading back to the house.
That night, we celebrated Ben and Greg's birthdays with a surprise Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles birthday party. Mara and Bryan grilled steaks and chicken. Miriam and Kelly had made apple crisp for dessert. Lots of game playing and relaxing after the party!
Wednesday was Dave's and my 9th anniversary. My parents watched the girls so we could have a day away. We packed a picnic lunch and headed to the Fern Falls trail head in RMNP. We had thought the forecast was for a chilly day, so were dressed way too warmly! We first hiked to an area called "The Pool" where there is a bridge crossing the river. At that point, we asked an intern who was digging to place signs if we were headed the right way to Fern Lake, and he ended up giving us the wrong information. We ended up at Cub Lake instead. We weren't the only ones in the wrong place. We took some pictures, then headed back down to The Pool. There we found the correct trail and made the long hike up to Fern Falls, then Fern Lake. The mist from the falls felt amazing, since we were so hot from our warm clothes! When we were just about at the lake, the trail was snow-covered, so we had to make our way up through the snow a bit. There was a patrol cabin by the lake, and the view at the lake was so beautiful. A perfect picnic lunch spot! After lunch and a few pictures, we decided that we should head back down. It was starting to get a little cloudy, and we knew there was a chance of rain that afternoon.
After we got back to our car, we drove to the Moraine Lake visitor's center, then went back to town. We enjoyed some waffle cones, even though it had started to rain a little bit. It was nice to look around the shops without kids! Our legs were so tired from our hike, though, that we didn't last too long. We headed over to Smokin' Dave's BBQ for supper, which was delicious! Back at the house that evening, we played some more games with everybody and tried out the hot tub on the deck.
Thursday morning, Dave, Bryan, and Connor got up early to go on a guided fly fishing tour. The girls and I went to town with everyone else to check out the farmer's market. We had a yummy soft pretzel and bought some honey to bring home.
In the afternoon, we did some canvas painting that Mara and Kelly had organized, then a few of us had massages (the house has massage tables and someone comes in to do them--Mara gave Abby a pretend one). Ben and Kelly made stir fry for supper. More hot tub time, games, and relaxation!
On Friday, some of us went back to RMNP for the morning. We hiked around Sprague Lake (even Norah did the whole loop) which was a nice and easy trail. It's even wheelchair accessible. Beautiful views of the mountains, too. After our hike, we stopped at the visitor's center, where Abby talked with a ranger and got her Junior Park Ranger badge. She had to complete activities in a booklet and answer some questions about taking care of the park.
We came back for a quick lunch, then drove to Loveland for laser tag. We spent a few hours playing several games of laser tag, and Abby had a blast! We ate out for supper before heading back to the house. More hot tub time and games that evening.
That night, Greg's girlfriend Rose Mary was able to fly in from Austin to join us for the weekend. She is so sweet, and we loved meeting her!
Bryan, Mara, Connor, Dave, Abby, and I headed back to RMNP in the morning, and hiked up to Bierstadt Lake. We decided to take the trail from the park and ride lot, because the line for the shuttle was insanely long. It was a pretty strenuous hike up, but Abby did great and made it all the way up! The view at the top was great. We heard a few rumblings of thunder on the way down, but didn't get rained on. We had a late lunch at The Grumpy Gringo (Mexican restaurant).
In the afternoon, Dave and Abby went back to some shops in town with my parents and I packed while Norah napped. We had a "breakfast for supper" meal with breakfast pizza and coffee cake. I loaded up the car that night while Dave and the girls enjoyed the hot tub with others. Later, Greg and Rose Mary showed a slideshow of pictures from their recent trip to Peru.
We got up early (5!) and were out of the house by 5:45. The girls once again did great on the long car ride! We only made a few stops for bathroom/gas/picnic lunch at a rest area. Around suppertime, we ran into torrential downpours that made it hard to see the road or other cars, so we stopped at a McDonald's in Stuart, IA. The rest of the way went fine, and we stopped in Albert Lea to pick up our car. Dave's mom changed the girls into jammies and brushed their teeth, so we could just put them into bed when we got home. It only took us about 16 hours with stops included, but we made it home!
It was an amazing and memorable trip, and we are looking forward to next year's! Mara has already sent a link to an amazing rental house in Door County, Wisconsin for next July...